Could Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin Replace Dani Alves At Barcelona?

hector_bellerin

It looks extremely likely that FC Barcelona are going to lose veteran right-back Dani Alves this summer with reports suggesting the Brazilian is about to join Italian champions Juventus on a free transfer.

If the thirty-three year old does trade in life in La Liga for a move to Serie A, then the Catalan giants will no doubt be on the lookout for a new right sided full-back.

The obvious name that comes to mind in Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin.

The right back is a Barcelona native and was on the club’s books as a kid. In the past two seasons at Arsenal, Hector has excelled and earned glowing praise and reviews.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger purred about the twenty-one year old’s displays:

“The positive of the season is that Hector has been consistent. He was outstanding in the first half as well.”

That consistency and the level of his performances saw the youngster named in the PFA Team of the Year.

Bellerin started thirty-six times in the Premier League last term (plus six starts in the Champions League) and his energy and willingness to keep on running edged the more experienced Mathieu Debuchy out of the Arsenal first team picture. The Frenchman would leave the Gunners to join Bordeaux on loan in January as he became so frustrated at his lack of game time.

Defensively Bellerin made on average 1.7 tackles per game and around two interceptions per game. In the process he only picked up three yellow cards. Going forward he help his sides cause with a single goal and six assists (more than Alves managed at Barca). He also managed an 85% passing success rate.

Obviously there is still room for improvement but the start he’s made to his professional career has been highly impressive.

It must be slightly galling for Wenger that after every fine Bellerin performance commentators, tweeters and the like would say it is just a matter of time before he ends up at the Nou Camp.

It must be like reliving the Cesc Fabregas narrative all over again… ‘The local lad must be waiting for his return home!’

With his lightening quick acceleration, smart positioning and his ability to get forward and back all game, it would be folly to think that Barca haven’t earmarked him as a possible Dani Alves replacement.

Arsenal have a strained history with their Catalan counterparts as they seem to lose a lot of their talented stars to the Camp Nou giants.

But they aren’t without hope when it comes to keeping Hector in North London.

Only very recently he was quoted as saying:

‘I’m very happy so I don’t see myself anywhere other than at Arsenal.’

Would that still be the case if his home-side came calling?

The young Spaniard also has three years left on his contract, so would Barcelona be willing to pay £20m+ on the defender?

Wenger is already making big plans for next season and will not want to see those plans derailed just because Barca may have taken a fancy to one of his consistent performers. The French manager has stood up to the Spanish champions in the past and made them wait for what they wanted.

Unfortunately I think this one might just turn into one of those summer long transfer sagas.

 

Forget Zlatan! Man United Should Make N’Golo Kante Jose’s First Signing

Kanté

So it just seems a matter of time now before Manchester United unveil Jose Mourinho as their new manager, as long as pesky Chelsea don’t continue to hold onto his image rights.

When the Portuguese boss takes his seat at Old Trafford he’ll need to start the huge job of moulding his new squad into winners or at least title challengers. That will probably mean that we shall see plenty of comings and goings this summer.

The ‘Red Devils’ have already been linked heavily with Swedish hitman Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The ageing forward is available on a free transfer, is a proven winner and showed last term that he still has that key knack of scoring plenty of goals. Add in the fact that he is PR/marketing gold and has a very good relationship with Mourinho already, and you can see why he’d be linked with a move.

But for me, I’d personally break the bank and try and persuade Leicester City’s midfield man N’Golo Kante to leave the Premier League champions and join Jose’s revolution in Manchester.

A lot of people instantly point to the influences of frontmen Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez when discussing the main men behind the Foxes success story in 2016. But Kante’s contribution was just as huge, in my opinion.

Back in November, just before everyone noted his worth, I pointed out how well he had done in filling in the gap that was left after Esteban Cambiasso had left the King Power stadium. His form never seemed to dip all season. He tirelessly worked hard for the team getting the ball back at every possible opportunity and finding a teammate to help start the next attack.

His contribution hasn’t gone unnoticed as Didier Deschamps has called him up for the French squad that will host this summers European Championships.

Legendary ex-Man United boss Sir Alex Ferguson was also full of praise:

“N’Golo Kante is by far the best player in the Premier League this season.”

His work and commitment wasn’t match by any of the current midfield men that currently play at Old Trafford.

Michael Carrick’s contract has been left to run it’s course and he’s now free to leave the club. Bastian Schweinsteiger showed us during the last campaign he hasn’t got the legs to play a vital part in a long season.  I doubt Marouane Fellaini will be seen as a Jose Mourinho type player. While Morgan Schneiderlin hasn’t looked a natural fit in a Man Utd shirt. Ander Herrera might still have a bright future at the club but he isn’t a midfield marshall or destroyer.

In Kante, I see a lot of Claude Makelele.

Kante like Makelele is extremely disciplined in knowing his role and sticking to it. Very smart in his positioning and his ability to sniff out danger and stop it from developing. Also nice and clean in the tackle.It’s highly impressive to average around 4.7 tackles per game, to make thirty-seven appearances and only receive three yellow cards.

During his first stint as Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho made Makelele a key player in his successful team. Surely he can see N’Golo Kante could have a similar impact in Man United’s team if they sign him?

The endurance of Kante is another huge plus. He only missed one Premier League game for Leicester City last term and that is really quite  impressive given the amount of miles he’d cover in every game.

Then we have the fact that he’s also just twenty-five years old and continues to improve with each passing season. He made the move from Ligue 2 to Ligue 1 with Caen without much fuss and he then improved when he moved to England. So you’d imagine he’d take a switch to Old Trafford in his stride.

The money men at Old Trafford might also be interest to find out if the French internationalist really does have a £20m release clause. If he does then the deal looks to be a bargain!

For quite a few seasons now Man United’s midfield has been a viewed as the teams vulnerable area, even as far back as Fergie’s last few years at the club. So it is one area that Jose really has to improved upon.

Yes bringing in a big name striker like Zlatan Ibrahimovic can be seen as a big coup for the club but they need to sort out the defensive foundations first and if they can bring in N’Golo Kante then they will be a stronger force for next season and their defence will finally get the protection they need!

 

Why Marcus Rashford Won’t Go To Euro 2016 With England

England

It’s getting ever closer to Euro 2016, where France will host Europe’s top footballing nations for a summer spectacle celebrating the beautiful game.

It’s a tournament that gets the betting public excited about who will win the tournament and who will be the competitions top scorer. Punters will be desperate for the best odds and the chance to make a free bet.

But I don’t think anyone should be rushing out to put big money on Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford being part of Roy Hodgson’s final England squad.

The eighteen year old striker has been selected for Roy’s initial twenty-six man preliminary squad but three members of that pool will leave the party on the 31st of May.

I think Rashford will be one of those that doesn’t make the cut.

Not because he isn’t a superb talent because he obviously is. He has shown this season that age means very little and that sometimes inexperience can be an advantage in front of goal. Roy Hodgson has already stated that the forward has “enormous talent”.

I think Hodgson is smart to bring the youngster into his enlarged squad and get him used to the senior international set-up. Giving him his debut against Australia will give Marcus invaluable experience.

But the problem is that Roy has plenty of good options to choose from in the striking department.

Given that Hodgson has chosen to pick just seven defenders, it’s hard to think that he’d take five forwards.

So if he goes with four attackers; then one of Rashford, Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Jamie Vardy or Harry Kane will have to drop out.

Now Vardy and Kane have been sensational in the past twelve months and their great club form has followed them onto the international stage.

Spurs striker Kane has scored twenty goals plus in the last two seasons and is England’s best all round forward since Alan Shearer retired his three lions shirt in 2000.

Vardy is a player who will always work his socks off for the teams cause. He makes the runs that other attackers fail to do and that work-rate is a huge plus in this kind of competition. He has also picked up three goals in his first seven caps.

So those two will definitely go.

Captain Wayne Rooney is England’s all-time leading goalscorer and will have played in more high pressure games than the rest put together. He can also drop into a deeper role or play out wide if he has to. I really can’t see Roy being so ruthless as to drop his own skipper for this huge tournament especially to make room for a teenager.

Daniel Sturridge has had various injury issues over the past two years but he seems to have put all that behind him at the right time. His goal for Liverpool in the Europa League final against Sevilla shows that he’s probably England’s most natural finisher. Also proved recently that he can make an impact coming off of the bench.

I don’t doubt that Marcus Rashford’s time will come in an England jersey at a major international tournament, I just don’t see him going to France this time.

For once England have plenty of stellar striking options to choose from and don’t need to make that wildcard selection that they have had to do in the past!

So if I were a betting man, I’d say that Roy will go for the in-form talents and the ones that have a bit more experience in their lockers.

Obviously injuries may change all that, should one of the others pick up a knock before the deadline.

Brendan Rodgers/Celtic: The Possible Pros and Cons

Brendan_Rodgers

When Brendan Rodgers arrived at Celtic Park on Monday you could easily tell that his appointment was met with euphoria from the Celtic support. Around 13,000 of them were allowed into the stadium to welcome their new boss.

Given all the names linked with the post, from the outset it looks like a smart appointment and as I’ve already said it has been warmly welcomed by the Hoops faithful.

But I’d urge caution and suggest that people take a step back and wait and see what Brendan does this summer before going all out on the champagne. After all, the last time I saw this much excitement regarding a managerial appointment in  Scotland, Paul Le Guen was striding into the front doors of Ibrox!

Like with most new managers Rodgers comes with a risk of not being able to deliver.

So here are the possible pros and cons to the Brendan Rodgers appointment as I see them at the moment.

PROS: 

Brendan likes to adopt an attacking style of football. If he can implement that style properly at Parkhead then he’ll become a hero to the fans. Often, under Ronny Deila, Celtic’s stars played through the motions without exciting the crowd. I’d expect that Rodgers will come in and make sure his side play with an attacking pizzaz that can get supporters on their edge of their seats.

The pressing from the forwards will get the fans cheering as it shows commitment and passion plus great willingness to get the ball back to attack again.

During his spells in charge of Swansea City and Liverpool, Rodgers showed that he was quite willing to give youngsters their chance if he thought they were ready. Celtic fans love nothing more than seeing their starlets getting a chance to impress at Celtic Park.

Has so far shown the ability to say the right things. Yes if you watch the Liverpool FC documentary from a few years back, he did come off all David Brent from the Office, but on Monday he told the fans what they wanted to hear and he also has a decent record with his players too. Both Philippe Coutinho and Luis Suarez have recently come out and said that he was a good manager to work with. His man-management has also been lauded by various ex-players who have served under him.

He’s a manager who is willing to change his mind. When he arrived at Anfield he supposedly wanted to get rid of a host of players but certain players like Jordan Henderson for example managed to play their way off that list. To be fair to Brendan he seemed to give everyone at least one chance to shine. He also changed his tactics when he felt things needed to be  freshened up. During the 2014-15 season he went to three at the back and that saw the side go on a decent unbeaten run. It’s often an overlooked quality but a good manager has to be able to change their ways!

As Liverpool boss he would have sampled the Merseyside derby and come up against various Manchester United bosses in those big games too. So with those experiences under his belt, the Old Firm games shouldn’t daunt him.

CONS: 

Some of the Liverpool transfers were pretty shoddy if we are being honest. Now I know Liverpool had that infamous transfer committee but alas Brendan Rodgers was himself part of that committee. Chances are Celtic will work in a similar way, where he will have an input but not a full say on who comes and goes. 

Then he also had an inability to fit every new player into his system, Mario Balotelli and Lazar Markovic instantly spring to mind. I believe he could have got more from certain players than he actually did. 

His greatest success came with Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez in the team, players that he inherited. Can he rebuild a squad? At Celtic he’ll need to do some major changes. 

It should be noted that Rodgers hasn’t actually won a major trophy yet as a manager. His record in domestic cup competitions wasn’t particularly great. 

As with most recent Celtic gaffers he’ll probably be judged on European performances and he seemed to struggle on that stage with Liverpool. In his only Champions League campaign Liverpool finished behind Real Madrid and FC Basel in the group stage. In his two attempts in the Europa League the Reds would fall out at the last 32 stage. He cannot afford to underperform in the continent’s prestigious competitions with the Hoops. 

As in the case with most managers that like to play an expansive, attacking style of football Rodgers teams often look vulnerable at the back. It’s the same at Rangers under Mark Warburton. Ironically as I commented on Liverpool’s poor defensive display during the second half of their game against Sevilla in the Europe League final last week, a Celtic fan pointed out that it was a defence that Rodgers had built. He cannot overlook any defensive issues as he chases his easy on the eye attacking style because his team will then come undone in the bigger games. 

At Liverpool he sold possibly their best defender Daniel Agger and never really replaced him. Plus he likes his keepers to play it on the deck, can Craig Gordon do that? 

All in all, I think Celtic have done well and shown plenty of ambition by bringing in Brendan Rodgers but that’s just half the job done. The board can no longer wait until the end of the transfer window or to see if they can qualify for the group stages of the Champions League before bringing in new recruits. They need to spend now and bring in players that will suit the new managers system. If they don’t then Rodgers will start off his Celtic career with an arm tied behind his back and no matter how good a coach he is, he won’t come in as a miracle worker. 

 

Trying To Look At That Rangers Statement Objectively

Rangers

The events that followed the Scottish Cup final have been widely reported.

But as with most things in Scottish football a lot of the arguments lose great meaning because they come from an area of bias.

In this case it seems to be that Rangers and their fans fervently believe that all blame should lie with the Hibs fans for what happened at Hampden. While a huge amount of fans and commentators who follow pretty much every other team in Scotland hold the belief that all the problems started when Rangers fans entered the field of play.

I believe, as in with most arguments, the truth lies somewhere in between the two opposite points and if you have a clear unbiased mind you’d see the points of all concerned.

Rangers Football Club then released a statement on Sunday, twenty-four hours after the event.

It’s fair to say that the statement was staunch and impactful. Again supporters of Rangers will generally support it in its entirety, while others will ridicule it fully.

But again I think if you look at it after taking a step back, it makes some good points and some stupid observations that make it ripe for ridicule.

So I am going to try and see if I can show you the good and the bad (probably alienating every single reader along the way as I don’t fully back any side of the argument).

First off the tone is quite vitriolic. I understand that people at Ibrox will be angry and upset by what happened but they in no way seem to be a club looking to make friends again with rest of Scottish football. You can make an equally impactful statement without some of the bitterness that comes across when reading it.

Rangers finds it incomprehensible that no one, either from within the Scottish FA or Hibernian Football Club, has condemned Hibernian’s supporters following the violent scenes at the end of yesterday’s Scottish Cup final when Rangers players and members of our backroom staff were physically and verbally assaulted. We have not even had the courtesy of any contact whatsoever from Hibernian to ask after the wellbeing of those who were attacked by their club’s supporters.

Ok I think in most circumstances like this no team would come out and just accept blame without fully looking at it. It is important that they set out from the opening paragraph that players/staff were assaulted as it cleared up any misunderstandings and as it should be the main point of the whole statement.

Every club should expect that their staff and the players are protected and aren’t attacked. I’ve seen people say ‘Ah but they dodged the punches!’. I don’t get what point they are trying to make, no player should have to evade an attack when leaving the field. The intent was there and that is bad enough.

I get that Hibs will have been triumphant and in celebratory mood after winning their first Scottish Cup in 114 years but surely someone could have phoned, text or emailed Rangers to make sure no member of their staff was hurt during the pitch invasion.

There must be a full independent investigation into the shameful scenes at Hampden. Rangers is also at a complete loss to understand why certain individuals have hastily attempted to gloss over the appalling events which unfolded at the end of Saturday’s final.

No matter how many times Hibernian’s chairman and Scottish FA vice-chairman, Rod Petrie, and certain other biased commentators wish to play down Saturday’s mayhem and violence, the truth must not be distorted. What unfolded on Saturday cannot and must not be put down to exuberance. That is a complete insult to Rangers, our supporters, and those individuals who were intimidated and attacked.

I am all for a full independent investigation but you cannot also expect the SFA to just condemn the Hibs support at the same time. Surely we wait for that investigation to take place find out the facts and then act accordingly. It should be enough for the SFA to condemn all the violence that happened on Saturday without mentioning just one teams support at this stage.

I think people reacted to what they saw on Saturday without knowing all the facts. But that is understandable in this 24 hour coverage of events and news. Obviously some words weren’t great but I’d choose to see that as human error and still make the point that Rangers, especially their staff, deserve to see appropriate action take place against all guilty parties (including Rangers fans).

It was clear to most of those who watched in horror that the Scottish FA’s security procedures failed when Hibernian’s fans went over the top in their thousands. It is to be hoped that all of Scottish football will share Rangers’ disgust and any attempts to attach blame to our supporters for the disgraceful and violent behaviour, which led to our players and fans fearing for their safety, will not be accepted or tolerated by this Club.

We acknowledge that a tiny minority of Rangers fans also encroached on the pitch but only after having been faced with prolonged and severe provocation and in order to protect our players and officials who were being visibly attacked in front of them. Any club’s supporters would have done the same. This distressing and deeply disturbing episode would never have happened had Hibs fans behaved properly but as they swarmed across the pitch it became immediately obvious that the security procedures were inadequate and had failed.

I think security questions do need to be asked and answered. Obviously it is impossible to stop that many people jumping on the pitch if they are all entering at the same time. But we all know Hibs history and how long they’ve waited for that moment. Surely a better plan could have been put in place. The police should have been able to prevent the Hibs fans from passing over to the Rangers end.

Now for the part about Rangers fans. This is where I feel Rangers lose a great deal of sympathy because of their bias.

They should have said that no fan should have entered the field of play. Yes to a degree Rangers fans might have been provoked but we aren’t in a vigilante state.

I believe most Hibee fans ran on to celebrate, and that is wrong mainly because they were let down by the minority who clearly wanted to goad the Gers fans and/or players. But no Rangers fan ran onto that park to do anything other the cause trouble. Again you can call it protecting all you want but that is somewhat strange as they won’t have spoken to all those that entered the pitch and many jumped on with the intention to fight. Ultimately they should have waited for the police to take action.

‘Any club’s supporters would have done the same.’ 

That’s a very interesting line that I think many have overlooked. I think every team up to point has an element within their support that they would prefer not to have. In the same circumstances many a fan from various teams would have reacted the same way. But again it wasn’t the right reaction or one that can be justified. Again you can’t say Mr Petrie was wrong to say his fans were over exuberant and then say but all our fans behaved as they should have. No fan should’ve been on the park and we have all known that for decades.

Again I can see why they would highlight the security procedures which seem to have been poorly thought out or too slow in their response.

These fans were allowed to rush, unchecked, towards Rangers supporters at the opposite end of the stadium – all the while goading and threatening them. This makes it preposterous to suggest Rangers fans were somehow to blame as some commentators appear anxious to do. This thuggish behaviour must be investigated and as many culprits as possible brought to book and formally charged. This is the second time in a year that Rangers fans have had to endure attacks by another club’s supporters.

Again Rangers have to accept that their fans shouldn’t have entered the field.

Fully support the call for action against anyone caught being violent on the pitch.

I can also see why they’d point out that this has happened twice now in a year. Shows that the police should have been quicker as it has happened already in recent history.

It must also be said that it was not at all helpful to see leading members of the Scottish Government, including the First Minister whose parish is Govan, passing comment on social media without any attempt to condemn the behaviour of Hibernian’s fans. These failures are unbecoming of our elected representatives.

Seems extremely odd to use the word parish. Why make it religious?

She commented to congratulate the Hibs fans, one of which was her husband. We have no idea if she was actually watching the game or the aftermath. We do know she wished both teams luck before it.

Sh has since stated that the violence seen was unacceptable.

But why are we (football) running to politicians for their condemnation? I thought we wanted less political input when it comes to our national game?

Certain media outlets have also attempted to distort reality. In the case of the BBC this is, of course, not news. BBC employees, in particular Stuart Cosgrove, believe Rod Petrie’s comments to be ‘balanced’ and others speak of a ‘minority’ of Hibernian supporters. Another, Tom English, who was not even at the match, would prefer the authorities to focus on Rangers fans’ reaction. We will not endure this insult.

Are we arguing about it being a minority of Hibs fans that were there to cause trouble? Come on now it was just a minority. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t comment or ask for action against them but don’t try and insinuate it was more than that, that’s why people don’t take you seriously.

I’m not a fan of the naming and shaming of particular journalists. The former Rangers regime also did this and it lacks class. If you have an issue then go through the proper channels and make complaints.

So, let everyone be clear on one thing – Rangers demands that players, staff and fans be protected from the violence and hatred of supporters of other clubs Rangers fully expects the Scottish FA and Police Scotland to take action to provide our people with a safe environment. When players are unable to accept medals at the end of a final because of fears for their safety and our supporters are alarmed and extremely concerned for the women and children among them, then surely every step must be taken to ensure that this is never repeated.

Think the last paragraph makes sense and is fair.

I think that, all in all, a calmer head could have done a better job of putting over Rangers point of view which should have only been about the safety of their players/staff and the police procedures that seemed slow and inadequate.

Making a case for the Gers fans that ran onto the pitch and by bringing in the First Minister and the journalists takes away from their main argument and points. It almost becomes grandstanding in places and will get the backs up of so many people without any need to.

Listen these are just my thoughts on the statement as I see it. As I said at the start I think it makes some valid points and some equally bizarre points that open it up for mocking.

By simply calling for more to be done to protect their staff, without the distractions, could have been a better response in my opinion.

 

 

Scottish Cup Final Shows That Rangers Are Far From The Finished Article

Ibrox Front

First off, let me congratulate the Hibs team on their historic triumph. They deserved the win and worked extremely hard to get it.

I am not going to discuss the aftermath of the game, I wasn’t there and will let the proper authorities investigate. Obviously it wasn’t a great image for Scottish football.

But let’s not let anything stand in the way of the truth and that is that Rangers simply weren’t good enough yesterday.

Gers boss Mark Warburton would have realised before the end of his sides last league match that changes were needed at Ibrox but the game at Hampden showed the world that this ‘Light Blues’ squad still have too far many flaws.

Now many will point out that Rangers had to wait twenty days between this final and their last game of the Championship season. Obviously that isn’t ideal but they are Rangers and should always be ready for a cup final. Plus let’s not forget that they ended the season poorly after sealing the Championship title. They often played as if they were wearing flip-flops and had swimming goggles on!

Really the squad peaked against Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi final and never looked the same again after that win.

In the first twenty minutes of the final the whole team looked off the pace and extremely rusty as they failed to really compete with Hibs.

Anthony Stokes in particular seemed to have the run on every Gers player he came up against. The same Stokes deemed not good enough at Celtic under Ronny Deila.

He gave the Hibees the lead after just two minutes when he found himself in space on the lefthand side because right-back James Tavernier was slow in getting back into position. Stokes continued his run into the penalty area, where Rob Kiernan inexplicably didn’t close him down or put in a challenge. So Stokes then had a clear chance in on goal and steered it past Wes Foderingham.

Too many times after that the Rangers defence were full of holes as the Hibs frontmen continually lost their markers and the Gers full-backs failed to get back after venturing forward.

Even going forward Tavernier and captain Lee Wallace weren’t as effective as they have been. They seemed to be a yard slower in this encounter.

Tavernier in particular looked sloppy. He has been sensational going forward this term but many a Gers fan have questioned his defensive abilities. This cup final showed that he needs to get back quicker and be stronger in the challenge. He also needs to react quicker to dangerous situations and stop moaning when he should be switched on to danger.

In the Premiership and especially in the bigger games the Rangers full-backs will need to be concentrating fully on their defensive duties and wont get the freedom that they’ve enjoyed this year.

I am still left unconvinced that Kiernan and Danny Wilson have the makings of a solid, consistent defensive partnership. Just when you think they might be a decent duo they fling in a performance that suggests that they’ve just met during a very awkward first date situation. They also don’t command their penalty area at set pieces, look at Hibs’ final two goals, the Gers defence crumbled at the sight of a good ball into the box.

Another more experienced centre-back who can talk others through the game and who can dominate in the air needs to be brought in. Someone like Davie Weir during Walter Smith’s second stint in charge at Ibrox would be ideal.

I’m also far from convinced about the abilities of goalkeeper Wes Foderingham. He’s a decent shot-stopper but does he read the game well enough? Plus he’s another one who suffers from concentration issues.

You can see why Warburton is desperate to bring in an experienced defensive midfielder like Joey Barton in, to help shore things up. Andy Halliday has performed admirably well during this campaign and his passion cannot be faulted but he isn’t a midfield marshall, he’s better looking for a forward pass. A proper holding midfielder will be able to spot trouble and snuff it out. He would also be able to cover the full-backs better. An experienced pro will also have the nous to keep the ball and slow the tempo down when needed to.

Warburton also needs to look at bringing in another forward.

Kenny Miller was brilliant and seems to be showing us that he’s getting better with age. Scored his goal well and made some very intelligent runs. Also worked tremendously hard for the team.

Winger Barrie McKay has been tremendous all season, he did himself and his team proud yesterday. Worked back well and always put a foot in when needed. Was also one of the better players at keeping the ball.

Martyn Waghorn worked hard but you could tell that he was just coming back from an injury. Looked dead on his feet just before he was hooked.

But the problem is that they need more competition for a striking role. The bench was threadbare (Obviously O’Halloran and King were cup-tied) and Nicky Clark doesn’t provide Gers fans with confidence and doesn’t strike fear into the opposition. So a new striker who can compete with the likes of Waghorn and Miller by doing well centrally and add depth to the striking department is also required.

Now I don’t want to totally dismiss Rangers season. They completed the main objective and secured a return to Scotland’s top flight. They also impressed with a free flowing attacking style that cause every opposition team problems.

But you cannot stand still in football, even after a successful season. You need to continue and build from that success.

Celtic will be reinvigorated by the arrival of Brendan Rodgers. While Aberdeen will be determined to not lose their place to Rangers.

So the Ibrox side need to pursue their top targets, push those deals through and work tirelessly to fix the flaws that we all witnessed in their defeat to Hibs.

 

Arsenal Hitman Giroud Should Be Les Bleus Hot-Shot At Euros

-Olivier_Giroud

History tells us that France like hosting an international tournament, having won the Euros in 1984 and the World Cup in 1998.

So Didier Deschamps and his squad will have a lot of pressure on their shoulders as France host this year’s European Championships.

The squad are well fancied with plenty of top performers in the pool.

In the team, centre-forward Oliver Giroud will be tasked with grabbing the goals that should see Les Bleus progress to the latter rounds.

Now Arsenal man Giroud can be a much maligned figure, mainly due to his goal droughts that always seem to appear at the worst possible time for the Gunners.

But when you look past the droughts, you’ll see that Giroud is actually a superb striker.

The six foot four hitman works well as a team player with his hold up play and ability to interact with the exciting players that play off him. His runs into the channels or by coming deep, make space for the pacey forwards to run into.

If anything his selflessness could be seen as his big flaw but I think the Euros could be huge for Giroud.

At Arsenal it seems like Mesut Ozil is more geared to play with a pacey striker and has taken time to get used to Giroud’s style. While the two have played better this term I’m of the opinion that the Frenchman has adapted his game more than the the German midfielder.

The pressure at Arsenal is great, boss Arsene Wenger knows of Giroud’s flaws but has never really signed enough competition for his place. Injuries to Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott certainly haven’t helped either, meaning that Giroud would often have to play through the goal droughts and get stick from the fans.

But things should be different with France.

The French national team now seems to be all set-up to get the best out of Oliver Giroud. A 4-3-3 formation with Giroud in the centre up top.

Obviously he will still work hard to get everyone else involved and do his bit for the team but I think Deschamps will tell the squad that Giroud is the focal point to it all and it should be played through him.

I think the fact that Deschamps has decided to leave out Real Madrid frontman Karim Benzema, due to his off-field antics, will benefit Oliver. As he’s now seen as his country’s main attacker.

The supply to the centre-forward will be crucial and again France are well prepared in that department.

Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann and West Ham’s Dimitri Payet should be the players that play in and around Giroud. Between them they have created eighteen assists during the season.

Griezmann’s pace will cause defenders problems and Giroud will hope to benefit from any confusion. Payet’s dead-ball expertise, his crossing ability and eye for a through ball should be right up Giroud’s street.

Even the young back-ups Kingsley Coman and Anthony Martial will work to get the ball to Giroud in the penalty area.

Just look at Giroud’s goal against Germany last November. Paul Pogba pinged a diagonal ball to Martial on the left. The Man United teenager worked the ball into the box taking out three defenders in the process, got to the byeline and cut it back into a dangerous position in the six-yard box. Giroud was the man on hand to then sweep the ball into the back of the net. That kind of play will be dangerous to any opposition this summer.

You then remember that you have Pogba playing in the Les Bleus midfield. The dynamic Juve man makes a high number of key passes, in Serie A he made fourteen assists this term. So he could be crucial at the start of most good moves that France make in the Euros.

So you would imagine that Giroud will get all the ammunition needed to fire France all the way this summer.

Plus and probably most importantly, the man is coming into the competition just as his form is on the up. He’s bagged four goals in his last two appearances.

So for me, I think this summer really could be huge for France and I believe Oliver Giroud will be at the heart of any success that they have and could come away with the golden boot.

Oh but that shouldn’t stop Arsene Wenger from bringing in another top class striker!

COPA x Soccer Rocker x Cruyff Classics

-soccerrocker-x-cruyff-x-copa-

It was a cold Sunday evening in January when Mike Ottink started designing a new Soccer Rocker shirt trying to mix the beautiful worlds of football and music that Soccer Rocker is known for.

Little did he know, when choosing two of his heroes David Bowie and Johan Cruyff as inspiration for his design, that they would both pass away in the months following.

Soccer Rocker, Cruyff Classics and COPA have therefore joined forces and have developed a special T-shirt and all the proceeds of the sale of the shirt will be donated to the Cruyff Foundation. The T-shirt will be sold during the Soccer Rocker event on the 21st of May 2016.

TheFootyBlog’s opinion: A great design that bring two icons together. Just a real shame that we lost both inspirational legends this year!

Bowie/Cruyff

 

About COPA:

COPA was founded in 1998 when a football addict started with a small collection of traditionally produced heavy weight cotton football shirts and the collection has grown ever since.

Nowadays the collection consists of different lines with retro shirts, jackets & pants, football inspired printed T-shirts & sweaters, baby shirts, functional football apparel, recycled bags and footballs. Since the start in 1998, the preference for traditional ‘Made in Europe’ craftsmanship provides the best possible product quality.

Another important reason for European production is that COPA is committed to sustainability and cares about the working conditions of its manufacturing employees. Therefore, all COPA garments are produced with the best possible fabrics and production techniques, and are created by motivated workers who are fairly paid for their dedicated work.

COPA products can be found in retail and online shops, via copafootball.com and in the flagship store in Amsterdam.

Joey Barton Would Be A Statement Signing For Rangers

JoeyBarton

So after a along hard season it looks like Joey Barton is taking a few days off to relax with his family in a sunny destination.

But it seems as though the veteran midfielder has a tough decision to make. He has at least two offers on the table regarding what he does next; either stay at Burnley for an extra year and play in the Premier League again or sign a longer deal to play for Scottish Premiership new boys Rangers.

While he debates who he should join next, I can totally understand why the Glasgow giants would want him at their club.

Obviously the player has had various troubles both on and off the field but it’s fair to say that he’s now maturing as a footballer and does posses leadership qualities that could enhance the Gers first team.

Burnley boss Sean Dyche has been extremely complimentary about Barton, who was a key player in his sides Championship winning season:

 “Joey’s an intelligent lad. He thinks about his football deeply and his profession.” 

It’s exactly that deep thinking that might give Rangers the edge as they try and persuade Barton to join them.

I met Joey in France during his stint at Olympique Marseille. During that conversation with French Football Weekly’s Andrew Gibney, Barton would talk in detail about football, how staying fit was always on his mind, that he believed that he could play into his late thirties and had the intelligence to move back and play as a central defender.

During that meeting I told Joey that coming into it I didn’t like him but my opinion of him changed after meeting him. He stated that I wasn’t the first to say that to him.

I’m pretty sure a few Gers fans will have misgivings about signing him, especially given his volatile reputation and his age.

But as I said, he isn’t as mad as you think. He still has his prickly side and managed to clock up ten yellow cards last term, but he didn’t see a red card. In his position as a tough tackling midfielder who protects his defence, he’ll obviously make challenges and get booked occasionally. His reputation probably means that refs are also less likely to be lenient on him. Plus I’m sure he still snipes back at officials and opposition players when things don’t go his way, that’s just in his nature. But that will endear him with the Ibrox support as it shows he cares and wants to win.

Obviously everyone is talking about the thought of his first 50/50 challenge with Celtic captain Scott Brown. Both will try and wind each other up if they come face to face but it’s up to the two to keep their heads and not let the other win the mind or midfield battle. It will certainly spice up the Old Firm fixture if Barton signs on.

When it comes to age, I don’t think that’s really an issue either in terms of being a bad thing.

Last season he played forty times for Burnley in a hugely competitive season, thirty-seven of those were starts! So that shows you that he does indeed take his fitness extremely seriously.

Barton doesn’t just play though, he is also very effective. He averaged just under three successful tackles a game in the Championship and averaged just over two interceptions per match. He also had a decent 75% passing success rate.

At Rangers, he’ll be seen as the midfielder that can lead those around him. The Gers in general have a young squad and last term you could see in certain games that they need an experienced campaigner who can lead by example and calm things down.

But looking at the transfer beyond just the playing merits and it would represent a significant coup for the club as they return to Scotland’s top flight.

They would be bringing in a man with a huge social media following and more importantly he would be turning down the chance to play in the lucrative Premier League to play for the club. It would show the footballing world that Rangers mean business and want to try and challenge Celtic next season.

It reminds me of the club signing other controversial figures like Paul Gascoigne and El Hadji Diouf. Players who made contributions for Rangers Football Club and made headlines beyond borders.

Rangers will be hoping that Joey Barton will join the light blues and lead another side to yet another title and keep maling big statements!

 

Ronny Deila’s Last Game At Celtic Left Us Thinking About What Should Have Been

17 Sound of Celtic

So Ronny Deila signed off at Celtic yesterday after overseeing his side triumph over Motherwell by a huge 7-0 scoreline.

But as the Norwegian, his coaching staff and the players celebrated by lifting yet another Scottish Premiership title many were still left scratching their heads.

When Deila first walked through the doors at Celtic Park back in the summer of 2014, he issued this rallying cry:

“I want to deliver the best attacking, exciting and entertaining football we can play, for the players to give their best every time they take to the field of and, of course, I want my players to work with me to achieve the best results possible and bring trophies to Celtic.”

He came with the reputation of giving youngsters their chance in the team and also stated he wanted his players to become professional 24 hour athletes.

But for the most part Deila’s plans seemed to be lost in translation.

His idea of professional athletes wasn’t best portrayed by older pros in his squad. Captain Scott Brown was pictured drunk on the streets of Edinburgh just before a cup final, midfielder Kris Commons berated the Celtic dugout after being subbed and Anthony Stokes was taking to twitter to complain about team selection during a game in Inverness. Those stories questioned Deila’s authority.

When it came to the crunch it seemed as though Deila wasn’t keen on playing a group of youngsters a lot of the time. It seemed to be more of a sporadic approach with Liam Henderson, Joe Thomson, Callum McGregor and Eoghan O’Connell getting runs outs. Only McGregor got the chance to show Ronny what he could do on a more consistent basis without really setting the fire alight.

Obviously the main youngster to come into the team and hold his own was eighteen year old full-back Kieran Tierney, who has been an outstanding performer this term. His energetic but disciplined displays were often joyous to watch and deservedly earned him senior international recognition.

But should we have expected more? Are they not producing good enough talents at Lennoxtown?

I also think Ronny often struggled to understand the fans and what they wanted. He mentioned attacking, exciting football in his first press conference but all too often Parkhead seemed to fall silent as players went through the motions or underperformed, especially in the bigger occasions.

Too often Celtic would concede sloppy late goals or goals from set pieces. That showed us that the work on the training ground wasn’t paying off. The Deila squad wasn’t full of athletes in peak fitness and they didn’t seem well drilled in every eventuality.

Really, for me, we only truly saw a glimpse of what Celtic could have been like at their best under the young Norwegian manager during the second half of last season.

Between January the first and the last game of the 2014-15 season they lost just three times. Once in the league to St Johnstone and they were unlucky in Italy against Inter Milan in the Europa League.

But just when you thought a corner had been turned they threw away their big chance of a treble and lost 3-2 to Inverness Caley Thistle in the Scottish Cup semi final.

I don’t think Deila ever recovered from that defeat.

This season Europe turned out to be a disaster again and Rangers knocked them out of the Scottish Cup at Hampden last month.

Yes there have been bright points. Tierney’s introduction as I’ve already mentioned and Leigh Griffiths’ form in front of goal.

Ronny Deila’s handling of the new signings, the Scottish ones in particular, often frustrated the Celtic faithful.

He’s never really managed to get the best out of Stuart Armstrong or Gary Mackay-Steven. After the big hullabaloo in getting Scott Allan from under the noses of Rangers, we’ve hardly seen him in a Hoops jersey. Ryan Christie was another who struggled to get a regular start, even though the fans wanted to see him more.

But yesterday it all seemed to come together, just when it was all too late for Deila at Celtic.

Five Scots started the game including Tierney, McGregor, Armstrong and Christie. Tierney and Christie would get their first Celtic goals as the team demolished Motherwell at Parkhead.

It wasn’t a one half blitz either, no Celtic would control the entire game with their dynamic assured display.

Delia even brought on sixteen year old forward Jack Aitchison who scored with his first touch.

As the sun shone down on Celtic Park and the young Celtic stars dismantled Motherwell with much skill and a hunger that only energises the Celtic crowd, it’s strange to think that those same fans were turning up at the stadium yesterday happy to say cheerio to Ronny Deila.

But that’s because performances like the one they saw yesterday weren’t a regular occurrence in Glasgow’s east end in the last two seasons.

Finally Ronny gave the fans the energy, the homegrown player and the slick attacking football he had promised them two years ago. It’s just a pity he waited to give them it as a parting gift!